The Phantom Lords and Ladies of London

People have lived in London for over 5000 years, but instead of a city, it was filled with marshes and forests. Legend has it that London wasn’t founded by the Romans of the 1st century CE, but in more ancient times by Brutus the Trojan, around 1070 BCE, which would have been 1000 years before the Roman invasion.

Brutus was the great-grandson of Aeneas, a Trojan prince. He was one of the few survivors after the Greeks burnt Troy. After Troy was destructed, the inhabitants set off to find a new home. A 12th-century monk named Geoffrey of Monmouth said that when Brutus landed in Britain it was inhabited by a race of giants led by Magog and Gog. After he wrestled them into submission, Brutus chained them to the doors of his palace that he built where the Guildhall is today.

Wooden statues of Gog and Magog remained at the entrance of Guildhall until they were destroyed in an air raid in 1940. They are now considered to be the guardians of the City of London.

The Romans invaded England in 43 CE, landing in Kent and making their way up the River Thames. They found a spot between two small hills where the river narrowed, and built a bridge over the river, which is where London Bridge has remained. They started to build streets, buildings, and ports, and called their settlement Londinium.

There is still evidence of Roman London today. Parts of their wall can still be seen.

The Anglo-Saxons settled just west of Londinium in 550 CE, establishing the city of Lundenwic. The Vikings made their first mark on London in 842 CE when Danish Vikings looted the city. By 878 CE, the country was split between the Saxons and Vikings. They ruled jointly until 1042 when Edward the Confessor became King of the both.

When Edward died, leaving behind no heirs, William, Duke of Normandy won the battle for the crown. This started the era of the Normans. However, our ghosts begin in the Tudor period of England. This began when Henry VII became King in 1485, who was then followed by Henry VIII. This started one of the longest eras in Great Britain’s history. London grew in importance under the leadership of the Tudors. It was the center of government and trade. By the end of their era, 200,000 people lived in London.

However, they are also known for not so glamorous things, especially Henry VIII. Let’s jump ahead for a moment to just before WWII. A British music hall comedian is singing a song about Anne Boleyn’s ghost walking through the Tower of London, “with her head tucked underneath her arm.” While he was joking, Anne’s ghost has been spotted near Wakefield Tower, in the historic Tower of London. People have seen her unhappy visage manifest wearing an etheric replica of the fur-trimmed robe of gray damask, crimson petticoat, white collar, and black hood she wore to her execution on May 19, 1536. She hadn’t only been seen in the Tower of London, but also Hever Castle, which was her home in Kent, as well as Bollen Hall in Cheshire.

It wasn’t that long ago when one of the guards at the Tower of London reported a strange light in the Old Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula, and it had been seen before. Each time the light was seen, the building had been locked and empty. A man got a ladder and climbed up to the window. Peering into the chapel he saw a procession of men and women radiating a luminous glow. Among those was a woman who resembled the old paintings the he had seen of Anne Boleyn.

It’s understandable that Anne fills attached to her earthly home. Her death was not a pleasant one. She was the second wife of King Henry VIII, and it was a scandalous marriage. First off, he had been denied an annulment from his first wife by the church, and his mistress was Anne’s sister, Mary. Thus, Henry broke from the church to marry Anne. She gave birth to a daughter, but was not able to conceive a son. A year into their marriage, Henry engaged in sexual relationships with two of Anne’s maids-of-honor. Unlike his previous wife who had turned the other cheek to her husband’s infidelities, Anne, didn’t. She became jealous.

Just like before, he blamed his adulterous actions on his mission to have a son, and started to question his wife’s whereabouts more frequently. After Anne gave birth to a stillborn male child in January 1536, Henry decided he needed to take hold of his legacy. That’s when he decided Jane Seymour would be his future wife, and sough annulment from Boleyn. He had Boleyn detained at the Tower of London on false charges, among them were adultery, incest, and conspiracy.

She remained calm during her trial, denying the charges against her. On May 9, 1536, Boleyn was unanimously convicted and her marriage to Henry was annulled and declared invalid. She was then taken to Tower Green in London for her execution. Her ermine mantle was removed and they took off her headdress. She kneeled and was blindfolded. With a  swift motion, she was beheaded. She was buried in an unmarked grave.

Anne is not the only ghost from the Tudors.

Henry VIII’s ghost has been spotted in Windsor castle. Witnessed have claimed that his spirit can be heard groaning and dragging the ulcerated leg that tormented him in his later years. It’s a wonder that his spirit isn’t tormented by the ghosts of his numerous wives. Henry was married six time. Technically, only three of them were legal because back in those days a marriage had to be annulled, which basically made it as if they never happened. Unlike a divorce, where a marriage is ended. Along with his wives, he had numerous mistresses. His first marriage to Catherine of Aragon lasted nearly 24 years, while the other five didn’t last ten years combined. That leads us to his next wife, Catherine Howard.

Catherine Howard’s ghost has been spotted in the Hampton Court Palace. While she was a prisoner in the palace, she managed to escape from her room in November, 1541. She raced down a gallery that took her to the King’s private chapel. She hoped that she could plead with him to spare her life, but as she reached the door, a guard dragged her back to her room. After she was beheaded, her apparition has been said to haunt the gallery. Her ghost appears at the fear end, pass as far as the door to the chapel, stops, and then returns to utter a piercing shriek, which ended in her vanishing.

The only other wife of Henry VIII’s that has been seen is that of Jane Seymour. She succeeded Anne Boleyn as Henry’s wife. She was the only one of Henry’s wives that was able to give him a son that survived infancy. Unfortunately, she died two weeks after giving birth due to complications from the childbirth. ON rare occasions people have seen her descending of the staircases in Hampton Court Palace holding a lighted candle in her hand.

The daughter Henry and Anne, Elizabeth I, has also been seen. King George V saw the ghost of Queen Elizabeth a few years before he died, during one of his periods of illness. He was alone in his bedroom in Windsor castle when he saw the apparition The pictures on the wall suddenly started to move, as if a strong draft had hit them. At the same time, a women wearing a black Tudor costume appeared out of one of the walls, walked across the room, and vanished through the other wall. The King said he felt cold when the ghost walked through. His nurse has also said she had felt an invisible presence in the sick room, and had witnessed the pictures move.

A man in the King’s service at Windsor Castle had also seen the ghost of Queen Elizabeth. When he saw the ghost, it has been in broad daylight. After he told the King, they came to the conclusion that they had both seen the ghost of Elizabeth Tudor.

Another well known lady that haunts England is that are Dorothy Walpole Townshend. She was the sister of Sir Robert Walpole, the first prime minister of England, and wife of Lord Charles Townshend of Raynham hall. At the age of 26, in 1712, Dorothy married her childhood sweetheart, Lord Charles, after the death of his first wife. Legend has it, when Lord Charles learned that Dorothy had been the mistress to Lord Wharton, he ordered her to be imprisoned in her room. Different theories have said that Dorothy died of a broken heart, smallpox, or a fall down the stairs.

After Lord Charles’s grandson George was made a marquess (maw-quahs) in 1786, he became known for all of the lavish parties he threw for aristocrats in Raynham Hall. An added attraction for his guests was the chance to see the ghost of Dorothy Townshend carrying a lamp as she walked down the corridors of the estate. Her ghost has been spotted several times wearing a brown brocade dress, so she had been given the nickname the “brown Lady of Raynham Hall.” George IV visited the estate during the early 19th century and was awakened by a pale woman dressed in brown. The ghost frightened him so badly that that he vowed to never return to Raynham.

It has been said that Queen Elizabeth II has seen the Brown Lady on numerous occasions. Members of her staff has said that Dorothy appears in a cold rush that causes the Queen’s dogs to start barking.

England likes its colored phantoms. There is the Green Lady of Louth. Thorp Hall, Louth was once the seat of Sir John Bolle, an adventurer who set out on an exploration of Cadiz, Spain, in 1596. During his exploration, he fell in love with a Spanish woman who longed to be his wife, but this couldn’t happen as he already had a wife and family. Even though she couldn’t go back to England with him, she gave him a miniature of herself in a green dress. As odd as it may seem, while the woman never came to England, her pahtom has occasionally been seen at Thorp hall. She is normally seen under a tree on the grounds, but she is always wearing a green dress.

Keeping with the color theme, we have the Gray Lady of Hackwood. In the 1860s, a certain legal gentleman saw the Grey Lady appear out of a wall in a bedroom he stayed in at the Hackwood Hall. At first he thought it was just trickery, but upon further investigation, a hoax was rule out after the Gray Ledy appeared twice in one night. He decided he wouldn’t say anything to anybody, but once he made it to the breakfast table, his guest excitedly asked him if he had seen the shadowy gray form that had followed him up the stairs the night before.

I’m sure all of the castles and palaces in England have their resident ghosts. While all of these ghosts died in various ways, they have one thing in common, they have such a strange attachment to earth, that they simply can’t leave.

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